2011 Gator Bowl page in the sidebar.
I've spent the last week and a half breaking down Mississippi State game film and writing optimistically about why Michigan Might Win. Long story short: unsound defensive numbers, Michigan's ability to exploit blitzes, and a vulnerable looking Bulldogs offensive line. The occasional Mississippi State fan that stumbles over here invariably goes, "But Michigan sucks", I shrug and say, "Yes, I know, but maybe?" And despite all of the exploitable moments, Mississippi State still does one thing that will probably kill Michigan: they, urm, are pretty good at football.
Michigan's had trouble with option looks like the Bulldogs' all year. And given the amount of misdirection that MSU runs, Michigan is going to be in trouble unless they play incredibly disciplined and smart football. One play against Auburn in particular has given me nightmares.
What does it mean?
Argh, terrible linebacker play, poor play recognition, safeties having to come downfield to make tackles. This play is basically a microcosm of everything that's bad about Michigan's defense this year. If Mississippi State pulls out a bunch of this type of misdirection plays, Michigan's defense is probably sunk. That is unless Mouton and Demens are perpetually in the film room from now until January 1. For Michigan, defending plays like this will very likely come down to film study/preparation and avoiding mental mistakes. It'll also be important for Kovacs, Cam Gordon, and Vinopal to come downhill and make plays.
If this was one play in the Mississippi State arsenal, I'd feel more confident (e.g., zone read plays in Ohio State's playbook). Unfortunately, this sort of play is the Bulldogs' offense, which means we're probably going to see a pretty high variance of defensive results: Demens and Mouton will probably make a lot of impressive plays, but there are also going to be a fair amount that get broken for significant yardage (like the one above) because of a single mental lapse. Being disciplined and knowing where your help defense is will be crucial, as will not overpursuing like the Auburn linebacker.
Also, you're welcome for the nightmare fuel.